Martin Slumbers departure later this year as CEO of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R & A) will be a big loss as one of golf’s more affable top administrators.
Slumbers, 63, indicated in an R&A news release he will oversee the hosting of this July’s 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, the return of the AIG Women’s Open to St Andrews in August and also the 43rd Curtis Cup match at Sunningdale before relinquishing his role.
Slumbers took over as R&A CEO on 1st October, 2015 from Peter Dawson, quickly putting his own stamp on the role of the St. Andrews-based golfing body.
I first got to know Martin in my role as Secretary of the Association of Golf Writers, a position I commenced in July, 2014, and also then in my as a member of the R&A’s Open Championship media team.
As the years progressed, Martin and I would often bump into each other at other major championships plus various media outings arranged by the R&A, including the annual Media Facilitation Days, and it would always be a warm greeting along the lines: “Hi Bernie. Good to see you. How are you?”
There was one time, and I cannot recall what Open Championship it was, and Martin was out walking the course during one of the championship rounds in the company of Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, and the Executive Director of Championships.
My own role for the four rounds of The Open was to walk inside the ropes with the media and the photographers, most who I knew quite well, and helping them undertake their own work but by also not disturbing the golfers competing and probably more importantly, not incur the wrath of patrons by obstructing their view.
So, here we were heading down one of the holes and Martin, accompanied by Johnnie, walked up to me saying: “Where do you want us to stand, Bernie?”
Living in closeby Crail, I’m often visiting the Auld Grey Toon and it was common to bump into R&A staff I knew, including Martin. Though I vividly recall the last occasion, as it was in the week post the 150th Open in 2022, and we were walking in opposite directions just opposite Tesco’s in Market Street (Yes, what a memory!)
I warmly greeted him, as you would, and he came back saying: “Thanks Bernie for your efforts last week, as they were much appreciated”. That was extra special and also heart-warming coming from the CEO of the R & A himself given, as unbeknown to him, I had finished-up that week very quitely after working over 20 Open Championship with the R & A media team.
There have been times also we’d bump into each other at Crail Golfing Society where both he and I are members, as well as Jim McArthur, a former Chairman of the R & As Championship Committee and a past Crail club captain.
I’ve got to know Jim better since his own days at the R&A while both he and Martin have been superb ambassadors for the R & A and, no doubt, we may now see more of Martin at golf’s seventh oldest club.
Martin, in the news release, spoke of the ‘privledge’ working as head of the R&A.
“It has been a privilege to serve golf at the highest level. It is a role that I have been proud to carry out on behalf of the R&A’s employees, the members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and all our global partners.
“In any career, there is a time to allow the next generation to have its turn.
“I am grateful to have had the honour, for nearly a decade, to have been the custodian of all that The R&A and the game of golf more broadly represents.”
During his tenure, Mr Slumbers has led a modernisation of The R&A’s activities, which included the merger with the Ladies’ Golf Union and its subsequent integration to enable The R&A to represent golf for men, women, boys and girls at the elite level.
“In 2018, as part of his strategic approach to The R&A’s activities, its first Playbook was developed, explaining the purpose of the modern R&A: ‘To make golf open, accessible and inclusive and ensure it is thriving 50 years from now’.
“This level of clarity has led The R&A to double its financial commitment to golf, with greater emphasis on women and girls; establish a strategic business-driven approach to golf development; and proactively seek to improve the perception of golf as good for you, good for society and good for the environment”.
He had oversight of the 2019 modernisation of the Rules of Golf, the roll-out of the World Handicap System in 2020 and the Distance Insights process, the outcome of which was announced in December 2023. He has served on the boards of the Official World Golf Ranking, the International Golf Federation and the LET.
Congratulations Martin and I look forward to probably seeing more of you at Crail Golfing Society.